Jesus and Money

Did you ever notice how Jesus got the order backwards when He was talking about money?

Matthew 6:21, "Where your treasure is, there your heart will be also."

Don't we always say it the other way?

"Find something you have a heart for and give your money there."

But Jesus gets it backwards. He says, "Your heart will follow your money," not "Your money should follow your heart."

He says, "Figure out where you want your heart to be, and start investing there."

Funny how Jesus messes that up...

Gospel and Justice

I'm reading a lot these days in the area of external focus, social justice, and the mission of the Church. A lot of what is being written is incredible stuff, and it's neat to see my generation attempting to help put our hands and feet where our mouth is when it comes to issues of faith. That isn't a tension the Church has held well in the past and I'm optimistic that my generation could do better. Unfortunately, I'm also worried that we'll simply swing the pendulum back to another side.

A lot of what I'm reading today talks about social justice as a part of the "Gospel." Richard Stearns' book "Hole in Our Gospel" is a popular example. Writers warn about "bifurcating the Gospel;" that is, dividing the Gospel of the Kingdom (Matthew 24:14) from the Gospel of Jesus' death and resurrection (1 Corinthians 15:1-8). The Gospel of the Kingdom is the "good news" of the promised kingdom in which Jesus will reign in righteousness and justice and the creation will be restored to what God intended it to be: justice will be served, the poor won't be poor, violence will be no longer, etc... The Gospel of Jesus' death and resurrection is that because of Jesus' death on the cross you can be reconciled to God personally.

Stearns (and many, many others) argue that you can't separate the two. The Good News of Jesus' death and resurrection is inseparable from the Good News that Jesus is King and the world (through you) should reflect that. This leads to the conclusion (or at least implication) that if a person is not tangibly reflecting the Kingdom, they aren't trusting the Gospel and aren't going to heaven.

However, we have to be very, very, very careful that we don't just assume when the Bible says "gospel" it's always talking about the same good news. The word doesn't seem to be that specialized.

Plus, some degree of "bifurcation" is necessary. The message of the Kingdom is not good news until after you've trusted the message of Jesus' death and resurrection on your behalf. In fact, the news that the King of the Universe is going to rule on David's throne and judge in perfect righteousness and justice is terrible news if you are on the wrong side of justice. If you're a traitor, the message of the Kingdom is the worst possible news you could receive.

Until you're rightly related to God, the message of the Kingdom isn't "good news" at all. Once you've believed the Gospel of Jesus' death and resurrection, the message of the Kingdom is great news. But they're different messages we can't afford to get scrambled.

Forgiveness and 9-11

The cross is the standard for Christian forgiveness. Our inability to meet that standard of forgiveness proves we need it too. 

The men who flew planes into the World Trade Center towers, Pentagon, and a field in Pennsylvania were wicked, evil, godless fools who perpetrated an unspeakable act against people created in the image of God. As I watched the non-stop television coverage on the anniversary of the terrorist attacks yesterday I found anger that had been suppressed for a decade somehow rekindled inside of me.
Surely there is a stopping-point for the kinds of people God legitimately expects us to forgive, right? 


Matthew 18:21-35 is pretty clear. Jesus only expects us to forgive to the degree that He has forgiven. Beyond that, we're not responsible. 

In Luke 23:34, Jesus Himself models forgiveness. He forgives the Roman soldiers who spit in the face of God Himself while He slowly suffocated to death on a cross. As heinous as 9-11 was, it's not even a blip on the radar screen of heinous compared with what Jesus was willing to forgive just minutes before He died. 

Of course, forgiveness like that isn't realistic for you or me. It doesn't seem possible for me to erase the debt of those depraved lunatics who commandeered jets and killed thousands of innocent people.  

And that very fact should remind me that I need forgiveness too. I need a Savior too. My inability to live-up to Jesus' example of forgiveness only highlights the gap between Him and me. And when we're talking about an infinite God, an infinite gap puts me a lot closer on the scale to the people I despise than to the God I aspire to be like...


Commit to Answering, not Specific Answers

It's a foregone conclusion that the world is changing at a rapid pace. Culture changes, trends change, philosophies change, needs change... Organizations need to change too. 

One of the things I notice about leaders who navigate change effectively is that they commit to answering the right questions but they don't sell out indefinitely to a specific answer. 

For example, take the question: "How can we get someone from one place to another as efficiently and effectively as possible?" In the late 1800s, the best answer to the question was "horseback." But organizations that sold out to that specific answer were left in the dust once Mr. Ford's Model T came around in 1908. 

Organizations that made it were the organizations who stayed committed to answering the question. Organizations that failed to make it were the organizations who stayed committed to their specific answer. 

We've got to be good at asking the right questions, even when we are confident that the answer hasn't changed. Because with most of the things we do, someday the answer will change. The question won't change; the need won't change; the reason for an answer won't change; but the specific way we answer the question might, and we need to be ready. 

Managing Misses

If you know me at all, you know I love to play golf. I'm not much of a golfer; I need to play more and am confident I could get there.

Even still, over the past few years I've taken golf lessons with a guy I met through a mutual friend. He's helped the fundamentals of my swing a little bit but has helped the fundamentals of my thinking a lot. He has helped me approach shots differently, and think-through every hole differently. As a result my golf scores are starting to really improve.

One of the big things he says on a regular basis is that "Golf is not about playing great shots. It's about managing your misses." The other day I heard someone quote Jack Nicklaus who said in a great round he only hits the ball exactly like he hoped 6 or 8 times (less than 10 percent of the time), and he's the greatest golfer to have ever lived.

A lesson I'm learning about leadership (especially senior-level leadership) is that the great leaders I know function in a very similar way.

There are very few perfect decisions because there are no perfect leaders and very few perfect scenarios. All decisions have collateral effects, not all of which are expected and not all of which are enjoyable. Leaders rarely have all the information they need to make flawless decisions when they need to make them, and rarely have the ability to pull off the "shot" that looks exactly like the shot they imagined in their mind.

Leadership is not about hitting perfect "shots." It's about putting yourself in a position to manage your misses.
You have to hit shots in such a way that they're able to be great, but not catastrophic if you miss. Shots with a catastrophic downside are rarely worth taking - you can't recover from them.

You'll live an awfully discouraged life if you try to lead perfectly.The great leaders I know don't make exclusively perfect decision. In fact, they rarely make perfect decisions. Instead, they're able to string together a bunch of manageable misses that move them forward effectively.